Interview: PrimeSense’s Adi Berenson

Interview: PrimeSense's Adi Berenson

It has been an interesting few months for PrimeSense. Having supplied Microsoft with the depth-sensor technology used in the Xbox 360 motion device Kinect and watched it sell 2.5 million units in its first month on sale, the Israeli firm has formed OpenNI, a nonprofit organisation promoting Natural Interaction (NI) devices, applications and middleware. It’s also released open-source drivers for its own motion-sensing device, PSDK 5.0. So where does the five-year-old startup go from here? We sat down with Adi Berenson, VP of marketing and business development at PrimeSense, to find out.

So the Kinect launch appears to have been a success, with 2.5m sold in its first month. How does it feel to have your technology in so many living rooms and bedrooms?
As you can imagine this is a great moment for PrimeSense, being a five-year-old startup. We are extremely proud of the huge success of Kinect; it’s probably the fastest launch of a consumer electronics device ever. What Microsoft has done with Kinect, in terms of taking technology from PrimeSense and building a universe on top of it, is phenomenal. This is a great moment for us and we are extremely proud. You can probably fill out the rest for yourself and imagine what this means for us from a business point of view.

Have you had any sort of feedback from Microsoft on OpenNI and the drivers you have released?
We are a supplier of product components for Microsoft, as was announced in the public release last year. All the software was developed by them. Microsoft is not a part of our initiative, it is not a member of OpenNI and is not aligned with it. To be clear, this initiative is around standardising APIs, providing hardware and software tools, community tools, documentation, project management and basically everything needed in order to explore natural interaction. So to be very clear there is no alignment with Microsoft in that case. Our work for Kinect and OpenNI are two very separate things.

So your relationship with Microsoft is purely on the hardware side?
Yes. It never ended on the hardware side – we are collaborating continously and we strive to make it a very sustainable partnership. Microsoft is our partner for the game console market, there is not going to be another partner there. We are talking about other markets, about enabling it on TVs, PCs, on set-top boxes and so on. This is an initiative we are doing by ourselves with other customers.

Did you always plan to release open-source drivers and launch OpenNI? To what extent was your hand forced by OpenKinect’s work?
Of course like everybody else we have noticed what is happening with OpenKinect. We thought, "let’s give them the opportunity to use our legimate infrastructure, our framework and development tools." Of course there are all kinds of different side projects going on with the community. We wanted to say to them, “you are doing such wonderful work, here’s a legitmate way to put it out,” and that’s what we’re doing.

You said when launching OpenNI that you would be working with OpenKinect to produce a unified set of drivers. How far away are you from a true, one size fits all solution?

We are not working with OpenKinect – we are offering them OpenNI. It is up to the members of OpenKinect to understand that the better way for everybody, especially for the industry at this point, is to take the OpenNI direction. For developers it’s also a better direction as it gives them access to the tools and an outlook for translating their efforts into business, it gives them a legitimate path. OpenNI is a legitimate, proper way of openly exploring creativity in NI.